When I think of the name Taylor Swift I think of an incredibly famous, powerful and beautiful woman who has really transcended the world stage in entertainment and seems to have mostly done it all by herself. I have always been a casual fan of her work and on occasion had some of her songs on a playlist. Her very popular video for SHAKE IT OFF was on a liked playlist my YouTube account for a while. I also really admired one of her hosting gigs on SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE where she even sang her monologue. Not many SNL hosts can claim that.
My all time favourite movie is Jonathan Demme’s transcendent STOP MAKIGNG SENSE which I can put on at any time and instantly feel better. Jonathan Demme’s then-daring idea was to shoot an entire concert in the 35mm format, which posed a lot of challenges, and the result was the finest concert movie ever made. In addition to this I have seen many concert films over the years at various film festivals. Pair a good sound system with some good projection and even sometimes you can have a performance that is equal to, or even exceeds, being right there live at the event.
The latest and much anticipated TAYLOR SWIFT – THE ERAS TOUR is an event concert movie that absolutely lives up to the event and then some. It seems somewhat basic at first and I was getting worried that this would just be a standard issue concert doc that was slapped together and made on the quick just to nab some extra cash for Taylor Swift Productions. Slowly but surely, something amazing happened with a brilliant mixture of hidden cameras, wide angles and even generous camerawork matched to a flawless sound mix…and my foot started to tap. I was in. I was completely bonded to the event and as cliche as it sounds, we really are in the best seats in the house for Taylor. THE ERAS TOUR is a tremendous achievement both as a concert film and a perfect document of a place and time, and is a total celebration of performance, by one hell of a strong woman who somehow does a three-plus hour concert without her or her team stopping. This is not only a champion of a feat but the movie takes it a step even further by getting many high end cameras and sound equipment right into the heart of the concert to totally put you right in the moment. Rarely have I FELT a concert film like this; a steadily climbing blast of music and joy of putting on a great show, all to such wildly entertaining results that left me exhilarated as the credits rolled.
Though Taylor Swift has had concert movies before, there really is nothing as grand and perfect as this one and it gets her at the peak of her stardom. It was filmed at the height of her tour just this summer at the vast SOFI Stadium in Inglewood, California. Taylor can sure fill a stadium (she could convert a major airport runway into a concert venue and that would fill too) and this is her current tour that is still in progress as you read this. I had heard that her summer Eras tour was a pretty big deal and sold so many tickets that the overall North American economy was in better shape because of it. This tour will continue throughout the end of 2024 and I am now tempted to get to a show myself.
But back to the movie presentation, and what has resulted here in its epic, nearly three hour running time is nothing short of a miracle. Not only is THE ERAS TOUR documentary a gift to Taylor Swift fans for those who either couldn’t afford or were near a concert, it also rests in the very top tier of the best concert films ever made. Everything about this is a great document of an incredible concert but an absolutely exhilarating experience of stunning wide images with a pulse-pounding soundtrack that never lets up. If you even just love concert docs and even have a slight interest in Taylor, this is still for you.
The concept of the doc is very simple; The Eras Tour, from what I understand, is a journey through her entire discography which changes many eras from folk, to pop, to acoustic. She has been at this since a teenager country artist and there’s nearly 40 songs in this mammoth journey, For me, this is what kept THE ERAS TOUR doc the most interesting in that I got a real good taste of why she is so beloved and how she keeps reinventing herself as she gets older. A lot of this IS communicated as the movie progresses by way of lighting, set changes and even the visual reveal of the albums (this was an absolute highlight with the audience at my screening, but more on that later).
When she gets to her 1989 album, for example, she shotgun blasts one hit right after the other in a delirious blaze as I was seat-dancing (I’m too old to get up and dance in a darkened theatre, but if you can, more power to you) in a feat of energy that reminded me, oddly enough, of the New Years Eve documentary of The Ramones, flawlessly changing speeds and always working. You can see Taylor sometimes getting the chance to stop and take a breath in very few, but notable, occasions, and even the sweat you see on her towards the end and the hair sticking to her face are all genuine. This is all harder than you think, and we sometimes get a few glimpses of her actually taking it all in and wondering just how many people are actually in the arena with her.
Yes, I’m a film writer and I notice these things, even if Swifties are not supposed to and just want to come and dance. Both can exist. The filmmaker here is Sam Wrench who has an impressive resume of music shows and videos. This was a reportedly $20 million documentary production and it feels like even more money is on the screen. He’s very wise to edit on beats, showing as little of the “sea of phones” in the background and even uses the widescreen frame to his advantage as it’s a very wide T-shaped stage (of course) as you get a lot more visual real estate here. Of course, THE ERAS TOUR does break a few concert doc cinema rules of mine by cutting to the audience for reactions and yet he doesn’t do this AS much as lesser concert docs do, but I WILL forgive it a bit and give Wrench some credit in that he sometimes cuts to the audience on the beat. There’s also a tear-inducing moment where Taylor, even though it was staged, gets to meet a fan but the cameras carefully capture it and still do not get in the way.
AND THE SOUND. Of course the key to a great concert picture is the sound, but the soundtrack here is on another level. The movie is fully engineered for Dolby Atmos using the best audio recording technology to date, and it will really put any great sound system through a good workout. This sound mix is fully 360 degree and immersive, you can tell great quality was also taken with the sound recording. Sound is 50 percent of the picture and you feel it throughout, and thankfully the theatre I watched it in had the sound turned way up for maximum impact. Thankfully I was in a good cinema that knew to “turn it up” and I suggest anyone going to a screening of this to ask the theatre management if the sound is turned up.
Watching this in a packed cinema was a mind-blowing experience and perhaps not for the reasons you think. The typical cinema rules are a bit relaxed for these shows. Naturally you aren’t even supposed to talk or make any noise during a movie, nor really should one write about how it plays in a cinema. With ERAS, the experience of the audience goes right along with the movie too and even Taylor mentioned in press to sing, dance and get involved. Earlier I mentioned I just stayed in my seat but boy was I moving around having a good time while around me, younger Swift fans were all dancing in the aisles, screaming along with Taylor and cheering throughout. There was so much love fun n the audience as I left my screening and it made my heart full of happiness. It’s such an experience that goes against the grain of how you are supposed to watch movies, but it absolutely works here.
In the end, this is how I felt like watching the famous final wormhole sequence in 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY. THE ERAS TOUR completely took over my soul in a way that very few concert movies have. This ranks right up there with the likes of THE LAST WALTZ, WOODSTOCK and, yes, STOP MAKING SENSE, the concert movies on which all others must be judged. Taylor is in it to win it. I’m a man in my 40s and I know that I shouldn’t be the intended target audience. Of course I get that, but any movie can be great and this concert doc is one for the books. It is fully intended to be seen on the widest screen that you can find with the loudest sound system. THE ERAS TOUR goes to 11.
TAYLOR SWIFT: THE ERAS TOUR is now playing in limited release in theatres. Seek it out, take your friends, make the theatre staff turn it up and enjoy.